Kelty Hearts vs Morton – Match Preview
by Dean McKinnon
Morton’s new season kicks off tomorrow with a new opponent and a new stadium for the Ton faithful to visit. Despite the last-gasp heartache of Dougie Imrie’s men missed out on the promotion playoffs - although I’m sure the Morton support managed to find some catharsis during said playoffs - last season was a clear success for the club. With the summer retention list being sizably longer than Morton fans have come to expect, a successful group stage in the League Cup would be a fair expectation.
Photo - GBR Photographs.
There are no two ways about it – The Ton enter this fixture short on bodies. The club currently have fifteen signed players, with Ryan Mullen being the only goalkeeper and only four defenders on the books. Mullen is due to make his competitive debut for the club, as are veteran defender Kirk Broadfoot and versatile front man Steven Boyd.
While no Morton players or staff have plied their trade with the Fife side, the home dressing room will sport many a familiar face for visiting supporters.
Former Morton goalkeeper Davie McGurn is currently a member of the backroom staff at Kelty. The shot stopper joined John McCormack’s Morton from Hillwood Boys Club in 2003, where he spent his first season deputising for Craig Coyle without making a single appearance. The capable and popular goalkeeper would stay at Morton for another four seasons, however he would struggle to establish himself as the first-choice keeper at any point during his tenure. Ahead of the 2008/09 season, McGurn would opt to leave the club to sign for Raith Rovers. He would serve Raith with distinction over an eight-year period before moving to Cowdenbeath.
Manager Michael Tidser joined The Ton as a fresh faced nineteen-year-old in 2010, having been released from Celtic’s youth system and spending a brief time at in Sweden. The midfielder quickly impressed as his technical abilities were evident for all to see. He would go on to become a key part of Allan Moore’s side in 2012/13, a season which saw him shortlisted for the First Division Player of the Year award. In June 2013, an offer of £50,000 was accepted by the club and the midfielder headed south to join Rotherham. Both sides would meet in a pre-arranged friendly a week later with Tidser receiving a warm reception from the home support.
The second chapter of Morton career began with an act of sheer incompetence. With Jim Duffy’s men struggling to separate themselves from Stranraer and Forfar in the title race, The Ton looked to revered former stars Michael Tidser and Peter MacDonald to help clinch a return to the second tier. It was then unearthed that, as Tidser had already appeared for two clubs in that season, he would be unable to play any part in the League One campaign. In the seasons that followed, Tidser was a rather unspectacular part of Jim Duffy’s side, with it being suggested that the player’s style did not match the style of the manager. Then came the news that no Morton fan wanted to hear. Tidser remained a popular face among the Cowshed faithful and, in the midst of the turbulent 2018/19 season, it was announced that he had signed a pre-contract agreement with Falkirk. It’s safe to say that the relationship between the Morton support and Tidser has never been the same since.
On the subject of soured relations, former Morton defender Thomas O’Ware is another well face for the Morton faithful. Signing for Morton in the summer of 2011, the former Rangers and Kilmarnock youth player made his debut against in November 2011. Although a natural centre back, he would be used in a variety of positions during his seven-season stay at the Tail o’ the Bank, including in midfield and up front. O’Ware announced that he would be leaving the club in May 2018, breaking the news ahead of the final league game of the season, which he was subsequently dropped for. He would also state he would have ‘absolutely no issue’ crossing the Renfrewshire divide to join St Mirren. Despite holding out for a Premiership club, O’Ware would wash up at Partick, where he suffered a serious knee injury after only three appearances in the 2018/19 season. He joined Kelty in 2021 following Partick’s promotion back to the Championship.
Journeyman midfielder Stefan McCluskey is another former Morton player now representing Kelty. McCluskey followed manager Jim Duffy from Broadwood to Cappielow in the summer of 2014 as Duffy was tasked with returning The Ton to the second tier of Scottish football at the first time of asking. McCluskey scored a few notable goals during his two-year stay in Greenock - an injury time winner as The Ton completed a stunning last gasp comeback to beat Stenhousemuir 3-2; a fine strike in an imperious 4-0 win at East End Park and an equaliser at Ibrox which secured a 2-2 draw and sparked euphoria in the away end. McCluskey would leave the club in the summer of 2016, believing an offer would arrive from higher up the food chain. The winger would go on to sign for Peterhead, Alloa, Pollok, Dumbarton and Forfar before joining Kelty ahead of this season.
Reece Lyon is the most recent link between both clubs. The former St Mirren youth player joined his hometown club in 2013. Making his competitive debut five years later against Dumbarton in the Challenge Cup, Lyon would struggle to establish himself at the club despite several managerial changes. Current manager Dougie Imrie sent Lyon on loan to League Two side Annan Athletic last season, where he would make twenty-three appearances in a successful loan move. His Morton contract, which had another year to run, was mutually terminated this summer as the midfielder agreed to sign for his former teammate Michael Tidser.
Photo - GBR Photographs.
Tale of the Tape
This is the first meeting of the clubs.
Kelty had an unspectacular season last term, finishing 8th in the third tier ahead of Peterhead and Clyde, who both suffered relegation to League Two. Despite John Potter’s side finishing sixteen points clear of the relegation playoff, the manager was relieved of his duties at the end of the season. Joe Cardle provided a creative spark for the Fifers last term, registering eight assists over the course of the season before being released in the summer.
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Understandably, the hosts enter this match as outsiders, chalked at 23/10 to claim the victory. The draw is priced at 5/2, with Dougie Imrie’s men to start their competitive season with a victory.